Nickname: Kiwis or All Whites
FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking: 78
New Zealand will be making its second appearance in the World Cup. The All Whites qualified once before in 1982 but lost all three matches. New Zealand will hope to better that mark this year, but that might prove to be difficult as they were placed in a group alongside defending champions Italy (ranked 5th), Paraguay (ranked 31st) and Slovakia (ranked 34th).
New Zealand cruised to the top of the Oceania qualification zone without any problems, winning five out of six matches. In fact, the sixth match was probably only lost because the Kiwis didn’t feature many of their regulars as they had already secured top place in the zone. The Kiwis then had to wait 11 months to see who would come in fifth in Asia and play them for a spot in the World Cup. The competitor ended up being Bahrain, and New Zealand managed to draw the first leg 0-0 and go on to win the second 1-0, earning a spot in the World Cup.
New Zealand is coached by Ricki Herbert, who is New Zealand’s most famous soccer figure. Herbert played defense for the All Whites when they qualified for the World Cup in 1982 and has now helped his nation earn another spot as a coach. Herbert is one of the least experienced and youngest coaches that will appear at the World Cup, but he may know his players better than anyone else. Herbert coaches a number of his players as they play for his club in New Zealand, as well. Herbert is a calm, collected coach who seems to get the best out of the talent at his disposal.
The biggest name for the Kiwis is defender and captain Ryan Nelsen. Nelsen is a strong leader and a very determined defender. Nelsen’s experience will be crucial to the Kiwis putting on a good performance in South Africa.
Another name that might make a splash in South Africa is forward Shane Smeltz. Smeltz led the Kiwis in goals during qualification with four goals in four games. New Zealand will hope he can repeat that performance on the big stage.